The Foothills Parkway West Experience in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Foothills Parkway West Experience in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This is a beautiful 18-mile scenic drive along the crest of Chilhowee Mountain connecting U.S. Highway 129, about 22 miles south of Maryville, Tennessee, to U.S. Highway 321 about 9 miles from the Townsend, Tennessee entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The scenic Foothills Parkway West is a favorite drive for motorists, bicyclists, and motorcyclists any time of the year.

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The narrow Chilhowee Mountain stretches for about thirty miles from the Chilhowee Reservoir/Little Tennessee River to Sevierville, Tennessee.
The highest point on the ridge is Look Rock at 2,700 feet above sea level. The Foothills Parkway West offers amazing views of Great Smoky Mountains National Park to the south and, in stark contrast, the lowlands of the Tennessee Valley to the north.

The Miller Cove Pullout is a fine opportunity to ponder the unique geology of the Smoky Mountain region. Like it’s nearby cousin Cades Cove, Miller Cove shows us the effects of eons of erosion creating a low bottom land comprised of a stone substrate that is softer and faster eroding than the surrounding mountains.

Further along the Foothills Parkway West and looking north, you will notice the low, uniform bump-like hills stretching out towards Maryville. They are called Woodpecker Knob and Black Sulfur Knob. These Knobs represent the most northerly advance of the Smoky Mountain Foothills.

Beyond the Knobs the land flattens and stretches out in a more uniform appearance. This area was easier to traverse for native Americans and became known as the Warrior’s Path. Despite the militaristic implications of this moniker the route was largely used for commerce and trade over vast distances. It is believed that settlements in Georgia and Alabama could trade as far north as the Ohio River using the trail. The path was a major thoroughfare passing through the Cumberland Gap, America’s first western frontier.

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Look Rock Observation Tower

Look Rock is a popular spot to take a break from driving and stretch your legs. There is a great view of Happy Valley from the parking lot. Walking the half-mile long trail which begins across from the parking lot is rewarded with a fantastic 360 degree view from the Look Rock Observation Tower. Checking out the unique design of the tower itself makes the walk worth it; however, combined with the view, this experience really should not be missed.

The left turn onto Look Rock Campground Road above the tower parking area travels a half-mile to the Look Rock Campground. Unfortunately, the campground is currently closed. For information on other campgrounds in the National Park, visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park Frontcountry Camping.

Happy Valley Pullout is a great spot to view Gregory Bald and Slickrock Wilderness to the southwest. Happy Valley has been subjected to the same geologic forces as Miller Cove giving it a similar appearance.

Foothills Parkway West dead ends at the intersection with U.S. Highway 129 at the Chilhowee Reservoir. Highway 129 is a popular ride for motorcyclists heading south towards North Carolina and the “Tail of the Dragon.”

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Foothills Parkway West is marked in red in the top left quadrant of the map.

4 Awesome Scenic Drives to Savor Late Summer Wildflowers in the Smoky Mountains!

4 Awesome Scenic Drives to Savor Late Summer Wildflowers in the Smoky Mountains! In brilliant shades of purple, yellow and white, the late summer and early fall wildflowers in the Great Smoky Mountains bring joy to all who wish to savor the glorious days of the changing seasons!

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Joe Pye Weed in the Smokies. The early settlers called the 12 foot wildflower “Queen of the Meadow.”

Did you know the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is also known as the Wildflower National Park? There are as many as 19 different kinds of Goldenrod, over 20 species of Aster, and 6 different Rudbeckia that are native to the Smokies.

Check out these primo viewing locations we’ve scoped out for you to enjoy now on into the fall season!

Cades Cove is the #1 Scenic Drive for Late Summer Wildflowers in the Great Smoky Mountains!

At five miles long and less than two miles wide, the scenic valley known as Cades Cove offers visitors an 11-mile loop road to drive, bike, and walk to explore this natural wonder’s flora and fauna. The paved road skirts the open valley’s 6,800 acres providing ample opportunities for wildflower and wildlife viewing.

Some of the beautiful flowers you’ll spot in Cades Cove are the tall Joe Pye Weed, Purple and Yellow Gerardia, Great Lobelia, and Ironweed.  You’ll also see Downy Aster, Goldenrod, Virgin’s Bower, and Wild Golden-glow in the meadows of the cove.

Although the road is open daily from sunrise to sunset, it is closed to motor vehicles each Wednesday and Saturday morning until 10:00 a.m. for walkers, joggers and cyclists only until late September. This is a great time to enjoy Cades Cove and really be able to stop and smell the flowers! The Cades Cove Nature Trail, near the bike rental shop, offers a chance to see the unusual non-green, Pinesap, with drooping red and tan flowers that bloom through September.

For more info on Cades Cove, check out our HeySmokies blog about the Cades Cove Experience.
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Iron weed is one of most dramatic flowers in the Smokies!

Rich Mountain Road is the #2 Scenic Drive for Late Summer Wildflowers in the Great Smoky Mountains!

This less-traveled, country road begins just off the Cades Cove loop directly across from the Missionary Baptist Church at sign post #8 and heads north. Rich Mountain Road is a one-way, gravel road that climbs about eight miles up Rich Mountain and then descends into Tuckalechee Cove and travels for another five miles into Townsend.

In this oak-dominated forest, you’ll see the blue-striped Mountain Gentian and the delicate and rare Rose-Pink also known as Meadow Beauty. Rich Mountain Road also offers iconic views of Cades Cove that are certainly photo-worthy.

Please be aware that motor homes, buses, vans longer than 15 ft., and trailers are prohibited on Rich Mountain Road. The road is closed in winter.

Clingmans Dome Road is the #3 Scenic Drive for Late Summer Wildflowers in the Great Smoky Mountains!

Take the high road into the National Park’s Canadian Zone and see plenty of the 3-5 ft. tall White Snakeroot (there are 13 different types of Snakeroot in the Park) as well as the large clusters of Filmy Angelica, a member of the parsley family. There’s the easy to recognize Pink Turtlehead, Monkshood, and the Rugel’s Indian Plantain, found only in the high country of the Great Smoky Mountains.

Although not a wildflower but a tree, we have to tell you about the Mountain Ash trees found along Clingmans Dome Road. This time of year this tree’s shiny red fruits burst forth in an explosion of color found only in the north woods and the Smokies.

Clingmans Dome Road (7 miles long) is closed in winter. For more information, check out our HeySmokies blog, the Clingmans Dome Experience.

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Great Smoky Mountains Scavenger Hunt at Tremont Institute on March 11-12, 2016!

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“People go crazy for it, just wandering all over the Smokies looking for answers to questions. They have a good time with that,” says Caleb Carlton of the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont, which organizes the annual Great Smoky Mountains Scavenger Hunt.

The Scavenger Hunt has become a perfect way to reconnect with family and friends, according to Carlton. “We have a lot of different types of groups,” he says. “(We might have) a group of girlfriends that all get together and make a weekend of it,” says Carlton, adding that co-workers often form teams as do many families.

There is no limit to the number of people on a team, although all team members must fit safely inside one vehicle. Each team must present one digital camera flash memory card at the end of the 25-hour hunt.

Great Smoky Mountains Scavenger Hunt teams will be emailed a list of questions on Friday, March 11 at 3:30 p.m. and expected to appear back at Tremont Institute with their answers by 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 12 where a light dinner will be served while the points are tallied. Prizes will be awarded; however at this event, everyone’s a winner!

Your team will enjoy traversing the National Park to answer as many questions as possible from a list which will cater to all ages and hiking/outdoor skill levels. The more challenging the question posed, the higher the point value.

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Seems the heart of the event is in the effort each team chooses to invest. “Some people go all night and all day and some people actually sleep,” Carleton says. “I’ve known a couple of people to camp while they do it,” he adds.

The cost for the event is $50 per team if registered by Thursday, March 10 at 4 p.m. or $60 per team on Friday and Saturday, March 11-12. Online registration is available at www.gsmit.org.

Funds raised by the Great Smoky Mountains Scavenger Hunt will be plugged right back into Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont’s rich spate of educational programs which help raise awareness of the importance of caring for our Great Smoky Mountains National Park. From workshops for educators to camps for kids, the organization is a thriving non-profit dedicated to fostering a love affair between people and our beautiful Smoky Mountains.

Gatlinburg Wine Fest Weekend on April 8-9, 2016! Samplings from over 17 East Tennessee Wineries!

The 4th Annual Gatlinburg Wine Fest Weekend will be held on April 8 & 9, 2016 with some great new offerings for wine lovers! The weekend kicks off at 5:00 p.m. on Friday, April 8 with an Opening Reception at the beautiful new Courtyard by Marriott along with a Wine Tour to three Gatlinburg wineries.

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It’s a wine lovers weekend in Gatlinburg April 8-9! (photo: Gatlinburg CVB)

Gatlinburg Wine Fest Weekend continues Saturday, April 9 at the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts from 1:00 to 6:00 p.m. Approximately 17 wineries from across Tennessee will offer samples of their vintages while some of the top restaurants in the Great Smoky Mountains will serve small dish fare. Tennessee sommeliers and chefs will discuss wine and food pairings as part of this fun event. Additionally, guests will enjoy touring the art galleries of Arrowmont  School of Arts & Crafts.

Tickets for Gatlinburg Wine Fest Weekend are $20 per event or $35 for a combo ticket. Purchase online at Gatlinburg CVB.

Pick Tennessee ProductsEnjoy some fabulous Tennessee wines from these participating vintners:  Amber Falls Winery & Cellars, Apple Barn Winery, Beans Creek Winery, Cades Cove Winery, Eagle Springs Winery, Goodwater Vineyards, Grinder’s Switch Winery, Hillside Winery, Keg Springs Winery, Mountain Valley Winery, The Winery at the Old Mill, Paris Winery, Reedy Creek Winery, Sugarland Cellars, Sumner Crest Winery, Tennessee Valley Winery, and the Winery at Seven Springs among others.

The Latest Dolly Doins? A New Resort, New Roller Coaster and a New Show in the Smokies!

What’s the latest Dolly Doins? Well, she’s got a new resort, a new roller coaster, and a new show in the Smokies! Dolly Parton has been doing a lot in the Great Smoky Mountains this summer and all of it ensures vacationers a fresh, new Dolly experience while visiting her beloved mountain home in the Smokies!

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Dolly’s Penthouse Suite at DreamMore Resort in Pigeon Forge. Photo credit: Dollywood DreamMore Resort

Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort is Open!

And it is just as fabulous as the superstar herself! There’s no mistaking that Dolly put her stamp on every detail of the 300-room resort hotel. The Dolly experience begins as you drive up the hill to the resort and are greeted by signs with messages of welcome and inspiration from her. Then you’re greeted by a beautiful and colorful butterfly fountain in front of the hotel’s grand entrance where attentive staff  will happily offer to take your picture in front of the fountain. There’s lemonade, cozy porches with rocking chairs, and other gathering nooks throughout the expansive lobby. The centerpiece of the lobby area is the three-story window that overlooks the beautifully landscaped outdoor pool area with views of the mountains in the distance.

 “The personal touches were also nice to see, from instruments that belonged to Dolly to an impressive wall of her discography. It seems like such a small thing, but I also loved that my bathroom had a makeup remover pad.  It just seemed like something Dolly would have in her bathroom,” said Brittany Jones Cooper, Yahoo travel editor who recently reviewed her stay.

The hotel was designed with families in mind and offers several different room types that include kid-friendly bunk beds and sleeper sofas. There’s also a variety of suites to accommodate families of all sizes. The top floor features the fabulous Dolly Suite, a luxurious penthouse apartment for two, which very much reflects her personal style. Room rates begin at $189 per night. For reservations, call 800-365-5996 or visit dollywoodsdreammoreresort.dollywood.com.

The resort offers a family-style restaurant, Song & Hearth, that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. There’s the DM Pantry for grab-n-go sandwiches and coffee. Other amenities include indoor and outdoor pools with firepits and kid’s play areas, a salon and spa, fitness center, and complimentary shuttle service to the theme and water park.

Ride the World’s Fastest Wooden Coaster, Lightning Rod, at Dollywood in March 2016!

At 20 stories high and at speeds of up to 73 miles per hour, this isn’t your grandfather’s wooden roller coaster! Lightning Rod is based on 1950’s hot rods and will be located in the Jukebox Junction area of Dollywood adjacent to the ever popular Rockin’ Roadway. Riders will be launched at 45 miles per hour and experience 12 drops where you’ll feel that you’re floating out of your seat!  Coaster enthusiasts will note that the ride will last three minutes and 12 seconds. And for those of you who think Dollywood’s other wooden coaster, Thunderhead, is a bit of a rough ride, theme park officials assure the new coaster’s ride will be ” as smooth as glass.” At a cost of $22 million, Lightning Rod is the single largest investment Dollywood has made in an attraction. Wowzie, we cannot wait for this!

Check out Dollywood’s official video for the new Lightning Rod Coaster to debut next spring!

Dolly Parton’s Management Company Buys Lumberjack Feud in Pigeon Forge!

You know if Dolly is around there has to be some music and entertainment close by too. The consummate professional and her management company World Choice Investments bought Lumberjack Feud Dinner Show & Theater in Pigeon Forge earlier this summer. The investment company currently manages Parton’s Dixie Stampede and Pirates Voyage theaters.

According to a press release issued in June, Dolly Parton stated, “We plan to develop a new, exciting version of the Lumberjack show and unveil it next spring. It will include major updates, changes and enhancements that I feel will greatly exceed guest expectations.”